Inauguration Day Play-By-Play

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As promised, I have written out how our Inauguration Day went. This is a bit on the long side, so I broke it down into a Before, During, and After section. The after section was really the most eventful of the day. I am working on editing some photos for you and will post hopefully later today.

P.S. The Tacoma News Tribune wrote about our experience here, here, and here. Thanks for the heads up Jason :)

We had planned to get on the Metro right when it started running at 4am but could not face the thought of getting up that early, so we got on around 6am instead. Surprisingly, the cars weren’t all that full when we started out, but that could definitely be attributed to the fact that we were almost at the end of the line. By the time we got about 6 stops down the line the cars were packed.

The metro was so filled with people that the stop we wanted to get off at was temporarily closed so we had to get off at the following one. That station wasn’t much better in terms of sheer numbers of people, so a metro worker started chanting “keep it moving” over the loudspeaker. She kept repeating it and eventually the crowd took it up as a call and answer. Everyone was laughing and in great spirits. Unfortunately we then had to backtrack a ways to get to the Mall. We joined the throngs of people heading in that direction and felt completely lost with no idea of which access points were going to be open and which would be closed. Luckily, they had a ton of volunteers who were more than helpful and helped pass along information about which streets to take and which areas were still open. We finally arrived at a gate a little after 9am.

As you can tell from my post on the actual day of the inauguration, I was feeling the joy and excitement in the air when we were finally on the Mall. The air was absolutely electric with the energy from the crowd. We stationed ourselves near a jumbotron so that we would have a good view of what was happening and settled in to just stand there. And stand there. And stand there. They were playing things on the screen for us to watch, but it wasn’t quite enough to distract us from the cold. I was bundled up pretty well and felt warm everywhere exc ept my feet. I forgot to put on extra socks and when you are just standing on the frozen ground, the cold seeps through the bottom of your shoes. I ended up handing out some of my extra toe warmers because one of my neighbors was only wearing tennis shoes with mesh on top and her feet were not going to fare well in that weather.

The crowed absolutely erupted when we got the picture of Obama arriving. All thoughts of cold and discomfort went out the window and the mood in the air increased tenfold. It took forever for all the important people to be announced and make their entrances, which was annoying when all you really want to do is get to the main event. I was disappointed with the crowd however, when Bush was announced and they all started booing. Twice! I am no fan of W’s, as I’m sure you know by now, but he is still a person and deserves to be treated with respect just like anyone else. I thought it was very poor taste for the crowd to boo. However, I did hear that up closer to the Capitol they didn’t hear anything, so I think it just had to be a couple of the sections closer to where I was standing.

Obama’s speech was great. Wonderful. Pointed. Inspiring. All things good. The crowd again erupted over and over and waved the flags that we were given. Jess couldn’t see the jumbotron due to the rather tall people in front of us, so she held her camera up over their heads and watched it all happen on the camera screen. People started trickling out once the speech was done but we stayed until the ending benediction. And then the fun part started…

I can safely say that I have never ever in my life experienced anything like the crowd leaving the inauguration. There was poor planning and management of the crowd by officials and it definitely showed. For a mass of people this size, there needed to be wide open spaces for everyone to move. Unfortunately, to get to the street we were needing to walk on, everyone had to funnel through one little opening wide enough for one person at a time. This created a mob of people so packed in that I’m sure you could have lifted your feet off the ground and you would have stayed in place. It was absolutely crazy. I was following Jess and had to hold on to the hood of her jacket to keep from getting separated. Since I’m bigger than her, I would occasionally physically guide and turn her from behind to get out of particularly tight spots. It took us a half hour to cross from one side of a street to the other. There is no crowd that will trump that for me. Ever.

After that, we decided that it would be wise to take a break before going on and trying to get home. We sat on a curb with some other people and watched the masses pass us by. From that point we decided to look for a building to wait out the huge crowds packing the subways. A security guard told us about a shopping mall, L’Enfant Plaza and we headed in that general area. Massive street closures allowed the sea of people to take over the streets, going in all different directions. Like I said in an earlier post, it was surreal to be with thousands and thousands of people flowing over the streets. It felt like some catastrophic event had happened and we were all wandering aimlessly not knowing what to do. We finally ducked in there to get warm and wait and found it packed with a ton of other people trying to get to the metro station connected to the building. Jess and I found a hallway with only about 50 people and sat to wait.

After a while, we thought the crowds had died down considerably and went to get in line for the metro, which was snaked inside the mall. We waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. After an hour, we had only gone the length of 4 stores and it was getting hotter by the minute. Picture a small mall hallway packed from side to side with bodies. The low ceiling was trapping in the heat, and the closer you got to the entrance of the metro, the hotter it became. Everyone was shedding layers and people were fainting. No joke. During that hour, we heard several people pass out. I am in the process of developing a cold and at the inauguration wasn’t feeling all that well. After being in those conditions in the line for that long, I developed a fever, started to feel really shaky and told Jess that we had to leave. We were by a side door and were able to escape that way.

From there, we walked to another station an hour away that would allow us to hop right on the correct metro line without having to go through any transfers at crowded stations. We were anticipating some sort of a line at the new station but were beyond thankful to find no line and no waiting for a train. It was completely empty of people. I can’t even begin to describe the absolute relief to be out of that crowded station line. If I hadn’t left, I most certainly would have either fainted or thrown up. We finally made it home a little after 6pm, after trying since 1pm. Finally getting out of D.C. rates up there in probably the top 10 feelings of relief in my life.

All in all, it was a great experience that I would definitely have done all over again. It was amazing to be part of a big historical even instead of just hearing or seeing it happen. A great trip with a great hope for the future of our country. Obama for your mama!


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